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The end of the intranet

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A vast majority of company executives say the intranet is a crucial part of their strategy to keep employees informed, yet studies show that workers are less engaged than ever before, and productivity has suffered because of it. 

Today, 87% of employees typically receive company information via an intranet, email, or in-person. For the most part, businesses are lacking in mobile and social solutions, and as a result, in spite of those efforts, Mindshare reports that 74% of employees feel that they're missing out on at least some company information and news. The fact of the matter is that today’s intranets cannot adapt rapidly to the needs of the 21st-century worker, and they’re being stretched way beyond their original intended purposes.

A decade ago, intranets were used for company news, document storage, and as a hub for links—and that’s pretty much where they still are from a functional standpoint. Companies still lean heavily on these resources for their employee communications strategies, but the capabilities of intranets are not up to snuff for the modern organization’s full internal communications needs. Layering a new interface on top of your old intranet might make it look more up-to-date, but it’s not going to address its basic lack of functionality or orientation. A new interface is just lipstick.

Today’s organizations need to be completely rethinking their approaches to internal communications and putting in place engagement platforms built for the modern workforce - platforms that unlock the potential of the information on your Intranet and distribute elements on  a personalized basis. Such solutions must take the following requirements into account.

The new mobile reality

Over the past decade, how people work and the composition of workforces have fundamentally changed. According to Gallup, 43% of employees say they work remotely at least part of the time. Instead of leaving their work at the office on a desktop or tower, their work comes home with them—at least on a laptop, but most likely on their phones as well. They’re increasingly operating remotely through collaboration software, ranging from WebEx to Slack. In addition, a growing portion of the workforce is represented by the gig economy, wherein companies work more and more with non-employee contractors. When considering the large percentage of field employees who never work in the office, the utility of the traditional Intranet falls further.

All of these workforce realities pose challenges for the traditional intranet. For an intranet to be useful, it must be accessible. It used to be that such access required being physically on the premises at an office. So now, when employees are working from anywhere, and an increasing number of workers aren’t even employees, what are the security gates through which they can access a company’s intranet content? Are they using a VPN or some sort of credential to sign in? Do they need a company email to access the intranet? Often, as much as 50% of the people working for a company don’t have a company email address, which makes that an insufficient means of granting access.  

Then there’s the mobile question. Many intranets today have tried to adapt to our mobile reality by creating responsive websites. “Responsive” simply means employees don’t have to awkwardly zoom in on links and laboriously scroll around the page on their mobile browsers. The content reorients itself, and there’s a mobile menu. But that doesn’t mean it’s a mobile experience—it’s just not a terrible web experience.

A true mobile experience takes advantage of the power of a mobile device. That means the experience includes things like mobile alerts, swiping navigation, and being able to click by tapping. A mobile experience is not a text-based experience; it’s a touch-based experience. And today’s intranets just aren’t there.

The SaaS revolution and application boom

OK, so your intranet isn’t built for a mobile world. But it still has centralized content and a hub of links, and that is useful. But of course, there’s another trend it’s neglecting, and that’s the advent of software-as-a-service (SaaS). With the rise of SaaS, companies no longer have to build their own data centers to house software. People can simply subscribe to the new software, and no physical, on-site setup is required.

As a result, at the same time that work was spreading out and people were going mobile, a whole universe of new applications in the SaaS world descended on the enterprise. And every one of those applications has its own user interface. So now, every employee or company worker has different portals for different applications. Maybe one is for intranet, one is for HR, one is for scheduling, and others tap into various additional needed functions.

Nothing, it would seem, has consolidated. Employees have to remember to go in and check all of these systems. That’s annoying. They also have different logins for all of these systems. That’s annoying. And they and the company have to ensure proper remote access to all systems. Once again—annoying. The intranet has been stretched beyond its capabilities to serve as a single destination for an ever-expanding SaaS world.

The need to get personal

Today’s world has moved away from destinations and toward distribution. But distribution has to be personalized. This is another area where intranets fall short. How can companies determine who sees what? How can they ensure the person knows there’s something worth seeing? How can they break through the noise? Company communications and their distribution means must be both relevant and personalized. Managing the distribution of content to maximize its relevance must be synchronized with both the HR systems as well as content management.

Companies need to deliver touch-centric mobile experiences that consolidate employee access across all of their different applications and links. Employees need access that can go anywhere. They shouldn’t have to remember anything other than to open a single app. And when they open that app, they should be assured that everything in it is relevant to them.

These master apps aren’t the best place for storing all of a company’s documents. That’s still what the intranet is for. But companies should distribute their intranet using an employee communication and engagement platform that’s designed for the mobile employee of this era.

Search as a last resort

Let’s also take a moment to talk about search within the modern employee platform. These days, the most common function used within an intranet is search. That’s because there’s so much information in these portals, and people find it very hard to locate what they need at any given moment. That shouldn’t be the case.

Best-in-class search functions are important, but they shouldn’t be used as an excuse for a poor user experience. If an employee platform is organized correctly, employees don’t have to search. They just have to scroll, and it’s all there, where they expect it would be. If they want to search, they can. However, the need to search is a failure of organization and a failure of personalization. Yes, a platform’s search function should still be fantastic—because organization and personalization are never perfect—but companies should strive to need search less and less, even as they add more content and capabilities.

No improvement without measurement

Finally, a modern day employee platform should be constantly improving. And for that to happen, it needs to enable robust measurement and monitoring across employee activity. Within a basic intranet, organizations can’t tell who read what. Sure, they can tell that a document got a certain number of views, but they don’t know who viewed it. Intranets simply aren’t set up for that level of specificity. They certainly aren’t optimized to analyze trends of engagement across different content topics, content medium, locations, roles and time/day.

Robust measurement originated with the advent of marketing automation, and the lessons of marketing automation are now translating to employee communications and experience. You can’t improve what you don’t measure—and we don’t robustly measure how we are performing for our employees. So for a communications and engagement platform to grow with an organization’s needs and employee expectations, it needs to measure—and learn from—absolutely everything.

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